The Live Ghost (1934)

THE LIVE GHOST (1934)
Short

Article 3580 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-14-2011
Posting Date: 6-3-2011
Directed by Charley Rogers
Featuring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Walter Long
What it is: Laurel and Hardy short

A captain is having trouble getting a full crew for his ship due to the persistent rumors of its being haunted. He hires Stan and Ollie to help him shanghai some men, but soon they too end up aboard the ship.

Here’s a pretty good short from the boys. The first half has them engaged in the plot to shanghai the sailors, which involves a gag with an egg. The second half has them aboard the ship and mistakenly believing they’ve killed a man. My favorite bit has the boys explaining why they have no wish to be sailors. As for the fantastic content, there are no real ghosts in the movie, but there is a man mistaken for one.

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The Living Idol (1957)

THE LIVING IDOL (1957)
Article 3550 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-11-2011
Posting Date: 5-4-2011
Directed by Rene Cardona and Albert Lewin
Featuring Steve Forrest, Lilane Montevecchi, James Robertson Justice
Country: USA / Mexico
What it is: Reincarnation and ancient curses

A young woman becomes the focus of a scientist fascinated by the history of human sacrifice who believes she might be the reincarnation of the victim of an ancient ritual involving sacrifice to a jaguar god… and he’s intent on testing his theory.

This movie sat on my hunt list for the longest time before a copy showed up. I’m very glad to have finally seen it; in some ways, it’s a variation on your basic “mad scientist” movie, only centered on reincarnation, superstition and ancient rituals. The end result is often fascinating; I’ve never really seen a story like this, and there are moments that are startlingly effective. Yet, for all that, the movie is a misfire; despite a fascinating story, it suffers from awkward and bizarre pacing, and its potentially scary scenes are badly ruined by an over-reliance on clumsy narration. I suspect that the problem may be that co-director Albert Lewin also wrote the novel on which the movie was based, and I found myself wondering if he just couldn’t let go of certain prose passages. Yet, between the fascinating characters and ideas, I firmly believe this could have been a classic. In my personal opinion, this is the type of movie that should be remade in the hopes that someone can circumvent the problems and make it work. As it is, I’m very glad to have seen it, but understand why the movie is rather difficult to find and appreciate.

Liebe, Tod und Teufel (1934)

LIEBE, TOD UND TEUFEL (1934)
aka Love, Death and the Devil
Article 3548 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-9-2011
Posting Date: 5-2-2011
Directed by Heinz Hilpert and Reinhart Steinbicker
Featuring Kathe von Nagy, Albin Skoda, Brigitte Horney
Country: Germany
What it is: Deal with the devil variation

A man buys a magic bottle that will grant him anything he wishes… but if he doesn’t sell it to someone for less than he paid, he will lose his soul.

I knew when I was going into this that I would be watching an unsubtitled German language film, so I was hoping to find a good plot description to help me sort it out. Alas, all I was able to find were some short plot descriptions with the above stated plot, but it’s not enough to sort out the subtleties of the story. I’m assuming that this is pretty late in the chain of affairs for this bottle, when the price is so low it would be next to impossible to sell the bottle for less. There’s some interesting scenes here and there that I’d like to find out more about; in particular, I wonder what the one man has on his back that frightens away his Oriental manservants. From what I can tell, the movie is mostly famous nowadays for having a classic song sung by Brigitte Horney.

Lion Man (1975)

LION MAN (1975)
aka Aslan Adam
Article 3522 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-12-2011
Posting Date: 4-6-2011
Directed by Natuk Baytan
Featuring Cuneyt Arkin, Barbara Lake, Charles Garret
Country: Turkey / UK
What it is: Turkish swashbuckler

When a king is overthrown by rebels, his son is left in the forest where he is raised by a pride of lions. When the usurper turns out to be a tyrant, the people wish to rebel against him, but they need to find the lost son to lead them. But the son has grown up as a wild man with lion-like strength in his hands.

This may be only the second Turkish movie I’ve seen for this series, but despite that, I’m not in unfamiliar territory; anybody who has seen a few martial arts and sword-and-sandal movies will find themselves in very familiar territory here. The highlight here is the freaky and frequently hilarious fight scenes that owe more to gymnastics than any real fighting technique; my favorite bit has the lion man battling villains while doing spins on a pole. I guess every culture needs its own goofy, over-the-top action movies. It’s energetic, silly, and quite entertaining.

The Lost Planet (1953)

THE LOST PLANET (1953)
Serial
Article 3487 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-26-2011
Posting Date: 3-2-2011
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet
Featuring Judd Holdren, Vivian Mason, Michael Fox
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction serial

The evil Dr. Grood discovers a planet with a rare mineral that can give him the power to conquer the world. Can reporter Rex Barrow defeat him and rescue Grood’s hostage, Professor Dorn, who is being forced to help him in his evil schemes?

The IMDB rating of this serial is a lowly 4.6, which is no surprise for a serial made when the genre was on its last legs in the mid-fifties. And, truth to tell, it is a fairly lame serial. However, I’m feeling generous enough to say I more or less enjoyed this one. Maybe it’s because it’s an actual honest-to-goodness science fiction serial with rocket ships, an alien planet and amazing inventions rather than being mostly an action-adventure flick with one or two small Gizmo Maguffins, which is what I usually get. Maybe it’s because it actually looks like almost all of the footage used was actually shot for this serial and not lifted from another older one, which is actually pretty rare for this time. And maybe it’s because the serial has the good sense to put its comic relief character in a hypnotic trance that keeps him from cracking wise during most of the running time. This may make up a little for the fact that the alien planet looks like Vazquez rocks for the most part, that the aliens look and dress like Arabs, and that the evil Dr. Grood can’t make up his mind to kill Professor Dorn or keep him alive. Or that most of the cliffhangers are fairly lame, even if it avoids bailouts. Or maybe it’s because I’m nearing the end of covering this type of thing and don’t want to go out on a sour note. Besides, this serial has some of the most entertaining chapter titles I’ve ever enjoyed.

Lifepod (1981)

LIFEPOD (1981)
Article 3484 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-22-2011
Posting Date: 2-27-2011
Directed by Bruce Bryant
Featuring Joe Penny, Jordan Michaels, Kristine DeBell
Country: USA
What it is: Low-budget science fiction

The first cruise spaceship to the planet Jupiter goes on red alert, and the passengers evacuate to the moon of Callisto, leaving a small contingent of passengers and crew behind. Most of these people make their way to a lifepod to make it to a nearby moon where they can expect rescue, but the captain stays behind because he suspects that the red alert was faked by the main computer. And why is the creator of that computer (who is aboard the lifepod) so afraid of it?

I was initially put off by this movie’s extreme low-budget effects, synthesizer score, low-key-to-a-fault acting, and somewhat confusing exposition. But I stuck with it and soon found myself intrigued by the central mysteries of the plot. Why did the computer fake a red alert? Why did the computer become sentient? What is the creator’s secret? The plot uses the basic HAL the computer scenario from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY for its jumping off point, and builds from there. The acting is actually quite good, and the script does weave an ultimately very satisfying story, one in which we’re not quite sure whether the computer or its creator is the real villain. Though I was initially disappointed at the central revelation, I grew to like it more and more as the movie wound down. The movie only has a rating of 4.8 on IMDB, but if you’re like me, you might find yourself liking this one quite a bit despite its flaws.

Legacy of Satan (1974)

LEGACY OF SATAN (1974)
Article 3483 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-21-2011
Posting Date: 2-26-2011
Directed by Gerard Damiano
Featuring John Francis, Lisa Christian, Paul Barry
Country: USA
What it is: Devil worship antics

A young wife is targeted by a devil cult.

Director Gerard Damiano was primarily a porn director, and, if the user comments on IMDB are correct, this was supposed to be a porn movie, but all the explicit sex was cut and it was released as a straight horror movie. This is probably why the movie has a scant 68 minute running time and has noticeable jump cuts. It actually has a certain atmosphere to it, and certain scenes are a bit startling, but it’s extremely muddled, occasionally very silly (that glowing sword), badly scripted, poorly acted, and has a truly annoying synthesizer score. Ironically, I suspect the movie would have worked better as a porn film.